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Q+A: Mana by-election debate

Published: 1:10PM Sunday October 31, 2010 Source: Q+A

PAUL Joining us for a live debate are Colin Du Plessis from the ACT Party, Matt McCarten standing as an independent, Hekia Parata, the National Party list MP currently with responsibilities for Mana, the Labour candidate, Kris Faafoi, and Jan Logie is standing for the Greens.  Julian Crawford from the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party is also standing.  Sean Fitzpatrick from Libertarianz is also standing, and Kelly Buchanan from Alliance also standing.  We welcome our five candidates.  Each candidate will get 30 seconds to say why they should get the vote, and we'll start with you, Hekia Parata.

HEKIA PARATA - National Party candidate
 Kia ora.  I'm committed to Mana.  I've spent the past three years working for it to secure a brighter future for all of our community.  With your help and by electing me as your MP, Mana will gain a stronger voice in John Key's government.  I'm standing for new opportunities, common-sense economics, investment in critical infrastructure, higher educational achievement, and better healthcare for all our communities from Linden to Raumati, from Whitby to Titahi Bay.  Mana's story is my story.  If you want more for you, your family, your kids and community, then vote for me.

PAUL Mr Faafoi.

KRIS FAAFOI - Labour Party candidate
 Mana needs a strong voice in parliament, and it needs an MP who listens to local concerns and takes action.  Mana needs an MP who sees the potential in its businesses and people, and someone who's gonna be in for the long haul.  The other candidates will tell you today that they have a good story to tell in Mana.  But Labour has a better one, and it's a story we've built up over decades.  It's a story built up on listening, understanding and working for all the people of Mana, and I will be the strong voice for all the proud communities of Mana.

PAUL Mr McCarten.

MATT MCCARTEN - Independent candidate
 My union Unite has asked me to stand and raise some issues.  The three issues we want to talk about is not actually about how wonderful we all are, but actually about wages are too low in Mana and the rest of the country; we've got employment that no one has an answer - these guys haven't mentioned in any of their materials, there's no plan about getting people to work and it's gotta be addressed; third, that GST's a rort, that most people in Mana actually had a tax increase.  42% of the recent cuts went to the 10% of the highest earners.  And both parties are keeping it there.  That's what this campaign is about.

PAUL Jan Logie for the Greens.

JAN LOGIE - Green Party candidate
 I live in Mana and I love it.  And I think that the issues for Mana are opportunities for all of New Zealand.  By tackling inequality we can all win.  By providing fast, reliable and affordable trains and buses we can grow the economy.  And we can make our waterways havens for visitors, jobs and wildlife.  I want to use my skills for social change to the benefit of Mana.  Kia ora.

PAUL Colin Du Plessis, ACT.

COLIN DU PLESSIS - ACT Party candidate
The people of Mana know me as a long-term local resident, as someone who has always been aspirational for this electorate, somebody who represents a party that is aspirational for the entire country.  People of Mana know that I care enough to deliver on quality education for all the children of the electorate, irrespective of whether they come from wealthy or poor families.  People know that I have a real heart for the youth, and I have a real heart for providing more work and more employment opportunities for young people in this electorate, which is absolutely essential.  Vote Colin Du Plessis on the 20th of November.  Vote for a local candidate.

PAUL Which of you actually lives in the electorate?  Jan, you do?

JAN Yes, Paekakariki.

PAUL  And Colin Du Plessis.

HEKIA  I have a home in Titahi Bay and I'm there seven days a week.

PAUL You live in Kilbirnie.

HEKIA As a matter of fact, I do.  In Ngati Porou we have a house and in Ngati Awa we have a house, cos we be very much in turangawaewae.

PAUL  Very good.  You cover the whole country.  You, Mr McCarten?

MATT No, I don't.

PAUL Mr Faafoi?

KRIS  I make a commitment to move...

PAUL That's right, you live in Kilbirnie.

KRIS  I do, but my family are in Mana.  My grandmother's in Titahi Bay in a rest home.

PAUL Come on, you come from Christchurch.

KRIS Yeah, I was born and raised in Christchurch.  My parents are Tokelauan.  The biggest percentage of Tokelauans in New Zealand are right in Porirua East.  I've been kicking around there since I was a youngster.  I remember when the McDonald's came in; I was there when the Mitsubishi factory was going strong.

PAUL And your uncle drove a bus.

KRIS He did.  I'm very proud of it.

PAUL First thing you would do if elected for Mana.  Jan.

JAN  Would be to listen to the people of Mana and create jobs for the one in three-

PAUL Create jobs.  Let's go.  How would you do that?

JAN One in three Pacific and Maori young people are unemployed at the moment.  It's not their fault and it's an outrage.  And we can create jobs around the harbour and the inlet which desperately need dredging and caring for, and we can create tourism from that opportunity.  I went out with the students from Whitireia this week, kayaking through there.  It's one of the most stunning places in the country.

PAUL So you're gonna go dredging.

HEKIA Hang on.  Dredging has already been-

PAUL You're the government and you've got 3,000 people unemployed.

HEKIA Dredging has already been dismissed as a realistic option in the studies that have been done about both of those water bodies.

JAN So what would you be doing?

HEKIA What the community out there have done is anticipate what the Land and Water Forum said, which was that the multiple agencies which have an interest in the quality of that water need to work together.  And the Porirua City Council and the Wellington Regional Council and Ngati Toa deserve to be complimented for the fact that they have now got together and they are collaborating.

PAUL Miss Parata.  You're the government.  Jobs.  3,000 people unemployed in that electorate.

HEKIA We've got a growth plan which has six parts to it.  We've had the biggest tax reform in a generation.  73% of people there are now facing an income tax of 17.5%.  We're trying to raise national standards there.  No, seriously-

PAUL What are you gonna do about jobs?

HEKIA  Because jobs can only come by sustainable growth, not by fly-by-night make-work jobs.  By backing businesses who are prepared to hire people.  Look, the spa at Tawa is hiring more people because they're able to take a risk.  The Community Max employed two people who then went on to a job in Parks and Recreation and now are being nominated as Porirua young employees of the year.

PAUL Two people.  I understand there are three thousand unemployed.  Matt McCarten, what would you do?

MATT It's very simple, 3,000 people have gotta get a job.  Work it out -50 bucks, it'd cost you less than $100 million.  It's what we just gave to Warner Brothers.  What you'd actually do is if you put two teachers-What you've gotta do is do the jobs quickly.  This long term, one day, one day, we've heard that for 25 years.  What you've gotta do is have a plan, say six months, how are you gonna get three thousand into work?  Two teacher's aides to every classroom, so you can do sports, you can do school patrol.  These are the jobs.  You just get people to the dignity of work.  Then you've got over 1,000 invalids and people on ACC who can't leave home - you get home help.  That's another 800.  Then you get a couple of hundred - you get the wananga up the road, train them, teach them basic skills and get them out to repair the housing which this lot are actually letting go down the toilet.

KRIS One of the best ways we could create jobs in Mana is to give the people who need the money, put the money in their pockets.  Hekia's government introduced a tax package at the same time as they increased GST.  We didn't know that was happening, Hekia.

HEKIA 2.5%, not 15% as Labour misled people with.

KRIS And the most benefit went to those at the top.  Now, if we put money in the pockets of the people that need it, those who are struggling to make ends meet at the moment, that's the number-one issue that I get when I'm out and about.

PAUL How do we do this?  We just give them money?

KRIS Hekia's party skewed the tax cuts to the top end.

HEKIA That is absolutely untrue.  The tax package is fair across all sectors.

PAUL Hang on a minute.  Kris, have you got a jobs package?

KRIS  Well, look, the way you create jobs is to get the local businesses going.  And if you have people spending money at the moment - and they're not, they've put their wallets away - you know, you go down to the centre and you look at the businesses, they're struggling.  One businessman has said he's going to struggle for the next six months.

MATT Private business is not going to create employment in the short term.  The state needs to intervene.

PAUL Let me go to Mr Du Plessis.

COLIN The major parties effectively voted against putting young people into jobs, and that is not the ACT position on that.  But the question originally was

PAUL Sorry, how did they do that?

COLIN  They've voted against youth rates.  They voted against brining back youth rates.  They're prepared to put young people at $4.50 an hour on the dole than to lower the youth rates to $10 and allow more people into the job environment.

HEKIA Excuse me, our government has raised the minimum wage, and aligned it with inflation.  To raise it to $15 would, advisors say, cost up to 8,000 jobs.

PAUL  15 bucks an hour, Matt McCarten, is what you're proposing, the minimum wage.  Which business, which struggling businesses in those malls in Porirua can afford that at the moment?

MATT What you've gotta do is you've gotta get away from this market, the race to the bottom.  There used to be a time we used to say, 'What do you need to pay someone full-time to raise a family and the dignity of work?'  What we've got, we've had 25 years of nonsense that somehow the market will create jobs, and this lot, if you abolish the minimum wage, that somehow if you put them on five bucks an hour, sort of thing.  It's just a nonsense.  The state needs to intervene.  You've got to get wages back up.  Real wages in 25 years have dropped 25% in real terms.  But the top people have been going up.  So the money's been transferred from the bottom to the top.

COLIN The original question was what is the first thing I would do for this electorate.  The first thing I would do is get hold of those bureaucrats in Wellington and drive infrastructure in this area, transport infrastructure, because that is what's strangling our business.

PAUL Infrastructure's a very big thing in Mana, this is true.  We've got the Kapiti-

COLIN I sit in that traffic every morning, Paul, trying to get to work.

PAUL You spend four hours in transport every day, I understand.

JAN  I do.

PAUL Transmission Gully and the Kapiti Coast Highway, a $1.5 billion spend, is it money well spent?

JAN  No, it's definitely not.  Even by the government's own figures, that every dollar spent is going to be an 80 cent return.  It's bad economics and it's bad for the environment.  There are seven endangered fish species that the government is looking to fast-track the road over.  The trains are a much more efficient way.

PAUL How does a bridge pylon upset fish?

JAN  Because they're looking at building the road over very protected waterways that have seven endangered native fish species.

COLIN Maori youth unemployed - that is an endangered species in itself, Paul.

KRIS The current situation isn't good enough, Paul.  And the last Labour government committed money to ensure that Transmission Gully was feasible.  We need to make it happen.  The situation with transportation in and out of Wellington at the moment isn't good enough.

PAUL I take it you think Transmission Gully's a good idea?

KRIS Yes.  It needs to go ahead.

PAUL  You make a calculation, though, don't you, that 12 extra trains, a train of 12 carriages per day would take 8,000 cars off the road.

JAN  40,000 I think.

PAUL Eight.

JAN OK, I'll trust you, you read it more recently.

HEKIA  We've been waiting 60 years for Transmission Gully to be finally decided upon.  Coincidentally, the amount of time Labour has held the Mana seat.  Labour committed $450 million, didn't say where they were gonna get it from, for a $1.1 billion road.  Transmission Gully will go through, our minister decided that within 12 months of being in government.  It's not either/or, it's and, it is and with rail, not either/or.  So we've also invested 258 million through the greater Wellington regional council in upgrading those railways, so it's not either/or, it's and and.

PAUL Transmission Gully - good idea?

MATT I think with the infrastructure support about real jobs, long-term jobs.  But at the moment it costs more to catch the train that it does to drive a car.  That's the problems with the locals.  Everyone has got a run on the market, so what we have is it increases each year, the locals get driven mad.

JAN  I spoke to somebody in Titahi Bay yesterday who's on an invalid's benefit, and to get into Porirua and back home costs her seven dollars.  That's her milk and bread for the week.  That's not an equitable society.

COLIN $20 a day to go into Wellington to do a job of work in an efficient fashion.

HEKIA That's why we need Transmission Gully and we need the rail working effectively, and that's what this government is delivering.

PAUL Sounds like everybody needs helicopters.  The government state housing proposals.  Now, four thousand of the 17,000 houses in your electorate are state houses.  Can you see dislodgement, can you see worry there, can you see concern?

MATT It's an absolute scandal.   What we actually have is that people forget - Tories always forget this - is that these are people's homes, they've raised their family.  I don't have to tell Kris about extended family, and Pasifika people particularly, and Maori people.  But it's more than just the people living there, it's the family, about people going to work and dropping kids off and all that.  No one who spent 20 years or more in a community in their home, raised their kids, get told by some bureaucrat, 'You have to move.'

PAUL It doesn't sound like it's going to happen overnight.  Now, this proposal Heatley's come out with is contributed to by the City Missions, the Salvation Army and so forth.  Currently there are 50 people in state houses earning over $100,000 a year.  The fellow we heard about the other night in Otara is living in a four-bedroom state house.

JAN  It's a supply-and-demand issue, and we know that when families move into state homes their hospitalisation rates go down dramatically.  We can save money by building state homes and keeping people in them.

PAUL What they're saying is, 'Let the people who need them get into the state homes.'

KRIS And on the whole, they are.  What Hekia's government is doing has got people worried.  I was at York Place yesterday - tidiest street in Porirua, all the state houses.  You know what the first thing they said to me?  The first thing that these proud people who are looking after their state homes said, 'Are these guys gonna kick me out of my home?'  They are worried about that.

HEKIA On this entire panel, I suspect I'm the only one who was brought up entirely in a state house, either funded by the Education Board at the time or by state housing, so please, I absolutely know that everyone gets a good start if they are in an adequate and affordable home.

PAUL He grew up in a state house.

KRIS You're wrong.  You're wrong.

HEKIA For a start, under the previous Labour government, the deferred maintenance in the state houses in the Mana electorate is shameful, absolutely shameful.  And under our government 2,500-

JAN That's not what we're talking about.

HEKIA No, you're talking about some kind of-

PAUL Hang on.  Miss Parata's response.

HEKIA ...have actually been refurbished.  636 have actually been heated properly.  And there is an ongoing programme-

KRIS Hekia, I invite you to come down Warspite Avenue, and you come into the state houses-you come down to Warspite Avenue with me.

HEKIA Absolutely.  You don't have to invite me down Warspite.  I've spent-

KRIS I know, cos you won't come.

HEKIA Oh, don't be insulting.  I have been up and down that street far more often that you have.

PAUL Miss Parata, if you wouldn't mind, could I come to you in a minute, Mr Du Plessis.  Mr Faafoi, your parents, for example, your parents are still in the state house that you grew up in.  Why should they be?

KRIS They are.

HEKIA Because I want the story to move on.  We want aspirational families.

MATT We're having a competition of who's got the best credentials for state housing.

HEKIA And it turns out Paul is the co-ordinator, so&

KRIS  And that state house gave my family the ability to raise me-

HEKIA Me too.

KRIS And it was great for my family.  And, you know, people in state houses are feeling vulnerable at the moment, Hekia.

HEKIA That's a general statement.  People in Flora Avenue are feeling great that the houses are being done up.  The people in Hampshire Ave-

KRIS But these people are very proud of their homes.

PAUL Nobody is suggesting it's gonna be overnight, the police move them out.  Your view on this.

COLIN Thank you.  Discussing the tweaks around state housing is really a band-aid approach, Paul.  ACT Party policy would see more people wealthier and buying their own homes, more choice to buy their own homes.  The question of leaving people in state houses, leaving people in poverty-

MATT So just explain how the minimum wage being slashed helps people buy their own homes.

COLIN It gets people into jobs.  Would you have them sitting on $4.50 an hour-

MATT We are racing to compete with the world.  Very good.  Don't touch me.  I'm annoyed with you.

PAUL Yes, let's move on from state housing.  How many rooms in your state house, though, and how many people in your state house?

KRIS Uh, Mum and Dad have a three-bedroomed house, and it's just Mum and Dad.

PAUL That's two spare bedrooms.

KRIS  Look, they're moving out in December.  They've got no kids at home any more.

HEKIA  But that's exactly the example of why we're trying to reconfigure state houses to reflect the actual demand now.

PAUL I think, Jan, it is an attempt to get the 20,000 families who need homes into-

JAN  70,000.  There's 20,000 identified as being in very vulnerable and tenuous housing.

PAUL Let me talk about the electorate itself and how you would handle this electorate, cos it seems to me that Mana would be a very difficult electorate to handle because you've got some of the wealthiest people in the country - the Whitby crowd - and then you've got the Cannons Creek crowd, some of the poorest people in the country.  How would you manage that, briefly?

JAN Personally, I think that reducing inequality is a key issue, and that internationally we've got really good research now that shows that it's not actually poverty by itself that produces really bad outcomes, it's the gap between rich and poor.  So we need to do the things of bringing people up.

PAUL You take the money off them.  Would you take the money off them?

JAN Of course not.  It's about bringing people up, and it's also you talk to people and people don't need to be filthy rich.  There's no need for that.

PAUL  Point is taken.  Mr Faafoi.

KRIS I'd get alongside them and know what their concerns are.  You know, I've come from a working-class background and I've done OK in life as well, so whether or not you're from Whitby or Waitangirua at the moment, the main issue is that people are concerned about prices rising faster than wages.  That is the major concern.

PAUL That's right.  There are people in your electorate who have had no wage increase this year at all; cost of living goes up.

HEKIA That's right.  And in the two years we've been in government compared to the last two years that Labour were in government, vegetables have gone down 6% under us, and they went up 18% under Labour.  And so on and so forth.

KRIS So you're going to take the GST off fruit and veggies too, are you?

MATT The thing is for the last two decades wealth has been given to the more wealthy and it's been taken off the modest and low-paid.  That's actually what's happened in this country.  And Hekia's support crew, as they drive past the electorate from the wealthier parts, I wanna appeal to them, because what we do is we cannot have a culture of greed where you look after yourself Jack, and you're OK.  Cos what we've got in this electorate, you're right, is one of the highest-paid electorates at one end, and down the other end as you drive into town to the concerts you're going past people and communities with Third World diseases.  Under that government and this government.

COLIN  The people of Whitby would say that they haven't been given anything, that they've worked very hard for what they've got.  What I'm trying to do is give opportunity to people at the other end of the spectrum.  My friends in Waitangirua, people who are on the poverty line, I don't want to leave them there in a state house because that's the easy solution and it maintains the constituency for certain parties, I want to give them the opportunity to break free of those shackles and become wealthier themselves.

HEKIA Look, we're not about redistributing other people's wealth.  We're trying to create the environment where the conditions are that everybody's standard of living rises.

KRIS It's about opportunities.  We need to give the families and the kids in Mana the best opportunities we can.

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